You know it happens with other animals: rats, hamsters, and even cats. It’s not an absurd thing to consider, although it seems pretty wild to us.
Recently, you’ve been hearing disconcerting rumors about rabbits, but now, looking at your sweet, cuddly pet bunny’s face, you’re thinking, no way are they true. This rabbit has a diet heavy on hay, not baby bunnies.
You shudder to even say aloud what you’re thinking. So, like any other curious human being with access to the internet, you begin to google: do rabbits eat their babies?
The searches seem to reaffirm your fears. You look down at your furry friend slightly differently now, knowing your answer.
Do rabbits really eat their babies?
It may be strange (maybe even horrifying) to think about, but while rabbits are not carnivores, they may sometimes eat their young. This is by no means normal rabbit behavior.
Well, I suppose it’s normal enough to be writing about. But it isn’t always the case.
There are many factors as to why rabbit mothers would eat their young. While it’s not a particularly frequent occurrence, it does happen.
If you’re worried about your rabbit eating her newborn babies, there are things you can do to try and prevent it from happening. But, first, it’s essential to understand why it’s happening.
Why do rabbits eat their babies?
So, why would a mother rabbit decide to eat her newly born babies?
Most of our reasons have a lot to do with their natural survival instincts. But, there are many reasons why rabbits sometimes eat their young.
While not the most nurturing way to welcome new life to the world, these things happen in the animal kingdom. Going along with the idea of survival of the fittest, a new mother may eat her kit (baby rabbit) because it’s born ill or weak.
Rabbits will also eat stillborn kits.
Why do rabbits ditch their weak? It could be to keep it from suffering. But, it’s more likely that it means one less kit to take care of. Such easy prey could also lure in predators, which leads me to our next reason.
Wild rabbits have many predators. They’re used to being hunted. That being said, they’re constantly on high alert.
While your pet bunny isn’t in any eminent danger in your household, those types of instincts don’t just disappear.
If she feels like they’re in danger, a wild rabbit will eat her kit so that there are no traces for predators to follow.
Yes, it sounds harsh. But, it’s the mother’s survival instincts kicking in.
Your domesticated rabbit will have those same instincts, even though they’re in a controlled environment.
Rabbits have to get enough protein, especially when pregnant with their babies.
The mother rabbit will be exhausted and disoriented after giving birth to her kits. She may be feeling malnourished. While we know that rabbits are herbivores, this lack of nutrients may make them devour their young, resorting to cannibalism.
Make sure that your mama rabbit gets plenty of protein and nutrients during the time before giving birth to avoid this scenario.
Yup, rabbits can get stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed by the birthing process. If your rabbit is a new mother, it’s not a guarantee that her maternal instincts will immediately kick in.
She may be confused by having the babies, and her first instinct is to get rid of them (remember, they’re easy prey). When anxious or stressed, a rabbit’s first thought is usually about their safety and predators, since they have so many in the wild.
The stress and confusion of giving birth for the first time (or any time) may be too much for some rabbits to handle, which is why they react by eating their newborn kits.
Placenta or kit
Mother rabbits will eat their placenta after giving birth. The nutrients that the placenta contains after a rabbit has just gone through such an exhausting process make it an alluring post-birth nutritious snack.
However, the problem arises if a mother rabbit confuses her placenta with one of her newly born kits. Without realizing it, a mother may accidentally eat one of her kits, mistaking it for her placenta.
How to prevent rabbits from eating their babies
Now that we know rabbits may eat their newly born kits, and we know some reasons why it occurs, you’re probably logically wondering how to prevent it from happening.
After all, baby cannibalism isn’t probably what you want from your pet’s experience.
So, if you’re looking to breed rabbits, what can you do to prevent this disturbing natural phenomenon?
Don’t breed too young
Maturity has a lot to do with baby cannibalism in rabbits. Mature rabbits are much less likely to eat their babies than younger rabbits.
What’s considered a “young” rabbit? You won’t want to breed a rabbit until it’s at least six months old.
Keep your pregnant rabbit well nourished
We mentioned that one of the reasons a rabbit may eat its young is malnutrition. It’s always important to keep your pet rabbit well fed and healthy. But, it’s even more important if your rabbit is pregnant.
Be attentive to refilling their water bowl and making sure they are getting a mix of leafy greens and hay. A rabbit’s regular diet should be rich in protein if done right.
If you notice your rabbit is extra lethargic, you may want to visit a vet to make sure everything is alright. You may need to adjust their diet accordingly.
Rabbits scare easily. You don’t want an anxious rabbit giving birth; it could be disastrous for her kits.
Try to keep your rabbit in a calm, safe, and quiet environment. Loud, aggressive noises or lots of commotion will likely startle your rabbit and have her on edge.
Make sure your pregnant rabbit is happy and feels safe.
Keep an eye on the babies
This may seem obvious, but after your rabbit gives birth, stick around and make sure your rabbit is adjusting to motherhood. Keep an eye on the babies to make sure they’re OK.
If you notice that your rabbit tries to eat her young after giving birth, remove the kits from her hutch and keep them elsewhere.
Don’t force motherhood
Not all rabbits are going to have motherly instincts that kick in. Rabbits eating their young could be their natural, instinctive way of showing it’s not for them.
If your rabbit eats her first litter, keep a close eye on the next attempt, trying to keep her as comfortable, healthy, and happy as possible leading up to the birth. If it happens again, you should accept that your rabbit was not cut out for motherhood.
Don’t force a rabbit that keeps eating its kits to breed.
Pet versus nature
While rabbits make lovely household pets, they still have their instincts. They will inherently maintain certain traits of wild rabbits. With love and the right care, they will adapt and be happy being your household companion.
However, if you plan on breeding rabbits, it is important to keep in mind that rabbits are one of the animals that are known to eat their young. Be extra attentive to their needs during the process and don’t force the situation if you notice it is overwhelming your rabbit.
And remember, rabbits won’t always eat their young. Just try not to be too alarmed if they do (I know, easier said than done) and try to prevent it in the future.